KNOWING GOD’S PROMISES FOR YOU:

There are literally hundreds of God’s promises in the Bible. How can we know which promises apply to us, which promises we can claim? To frame this question another way, how can one tell the difference between general promises and specific promises? A general promise is one that is given by the Holy Spirit to every believer in every age. When the author penned the promise, he set no limitations on time period or recipient.

An example of a general promise is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is based on the forgiving nature of God and is available to all believers everywhere. Another example of a general promise is Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This promise is made to all believers who, refusing to worry, bring their requests to God (v. 8). Other examples of general promises include Psalm 1:327:1031:24John 4:13-14 (note the word “whoever”); and Revelation 3:20.

A specific promise is one that is made to specific individuals on specific occasions. The context of the promise will usually make clear who the recipient is. For example, the promise of 1 Kings 9:5 is very specific: “I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” The preceding and following verses make it clear that God is speaking only to King Solomon.

Luke 2:35 contains another specific promise: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” This prophecy/promise was directed to Mary and was fulfilled in her lifetime. While a specific promise is not made to all believers generally, the Holy Spirit can still use a specific promise to guide or encourage any of His children. For example, the promise of Isaiah 54:10 was written with Israel in mind, but the Holy Spirit has used these words to comfort many Christians today: “my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.”

As he was led to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul claimed the promise of Isaiah: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Isaiah’s promise was originally meant for the Messiah, but in it Paul found guidance from the Lord for his own life. When claiming one of God’s promises from Scripture, we should keep the following principles in mind:

1) God’s promises are often conditional. Look for the word “if” in the context.
2) God gives us promises to help us better submit to His will and trust Him. A promise does not make God bend to our will.
3) Do not assume to know precisely when, where, or how God’s promises will be fulfilled in your life.

Prophet Nathan Emol

STAYING FOCUSED IN JESUS:

 In our fast-paced, attention-grabbing world, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind, get distracted, and lose sight of our true purpose in life—the worship and love of God (see Matthew 22:37). Yet we are told to run our race with our eyes focused on Christ: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2). How can we resist the allure of the world and keep our focus where it belongs, on Christ?

To focus is to direct one’s attention or concentrate on something. If we are focused on Christ, then He has our attention; we are concentrating on Him and His word; He occupies the forefront of our minds. Such a focus is only fitting, because Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). By rights, He should be our focus.

Colossians 3:1–4 contains much that can help us stay focused on Christ: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We are to focus on “things above,” remembering that Christ is seated in the place of glory and power (verse 1). The reason for the command is also given: because we have been raised to new life with Christ. To focus on the things above, we must consciously remove our focus from “earthly things” (verse 2), and the reason is given: we have died to self, and Christ is our very life (verse 3). Helping us stay focused on Christ is the reminder that Jesus is coming again, and when we see Him we will know glory (verse 4).

Hebrews 2 lists some of the things that Christ has done or is doing for us: He shared our humanity (verse 14), He breaks the power of the devil (verse 14), He frees us (verse 15), He is our “merciful and faithful high priest” (verse 17), He suffered for us (verse 18), and He helps those who are tempted in this world (verse 18). Because of all this, Hebrews 3:1, says, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

Here are some practical ways for a born-again believer to stay focused on Christ:

Commit to reading the Bible. It is impossible for a believer to be consistently in the Word without having his attention drawn again and again to Christ: “The Scriptures point to me!” Jesus said (John 5:39, NLT; see also Luke 24:44 and Hebrews 10:7). To focus on the Word of God is to have the Son of God brought more into focus.

Develop your prayer life. If you want to know how to pray, read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Luke 11:1–13. As you speak to the Lord throughout your day, you will naturally be more focused on Him. Little things, big things—we can come to the Lord with any and all of our cares. The command is to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to always be in an attitude and atmosphere of instant prayer.

Trust the Lord as your only protector: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15). Once we understand the spiritual dangers we face on a daily basis, we will focus more on Christ, our one and only Savior, who alone has the power of deliverance.

Recognize your need and the Lord as the source of all good things: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2, ESV). The world offers various means of obtaining love, joy, and peace, but they are destined to disappoint. The believer understands that love, joy, and peace (and a myriad other fine gifts) are the direct result of his relationship with Christ (see Galatians 5:22–23).

See the world for what it is: a sin-filled place of desperate need. The darker the world is to us, the more clearly the light of Christ will stand out. It’s not hard to focus on a light in a darkened room. “We . . . have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Those who stay focused on Christ will find their perspective on worldly things changing. As Helen Lemmel says in her hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in His wonderful face, / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.”

In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful go through Vanity Fair, where they are offered “all sorts of vanity.” Christian’s and Faithful’s response is instructive for us: “These pilgrims set very light by all their wares—they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,’ and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven” (Part I, p. 86). May we, like the pilgrims in Vanity Town, practice the heavenward-look and keep our eyes focused on Christ, His glory, and His love.

Prophet Nathan Emol

BECOMING MORE LIKE CHRIST:

God’s desire for all who know Him is for us to become more like Christ. We do this by first growing in our knowledge of Christ. It stands to reason that we cannot grow to be like someone we don’t know. The deeper our knowledge of Christ, the deeper our understanding of Him, and the more like Him we become. Among other reasons, we are to know and understand Christ so that we will be secure in the faith.

The Apostle Paul reiterates this truth in Ephesians 4:14-16: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” This fact is repeated once more in 2 Peter 3:17-18: “Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” These passages show us that growing in the knowledge of Christ will preserve us from faith-destroying error.

Of course, knowledge alone will not produce a Christlike character. The knowledge we gain from God’s Word must impact our hearts and convict us of the need to obey what we have learned. Romans 12:1-2 tells us emphatically that the process of filling our minds with the knowledge of God not only brings us closer to Christlikeness, but obedience to that knowledge aligns us with the perfect will of God: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The natural consequence of knowing and obeying God is that He becomes greater and greater, while we become less and less as we yield control of our lives to Him. Just as John the Baptist knew that “[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), so the Christian grows to reflect more of Christ and less of his own nature. Luke sums it up best when he describes what Jesus told His disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). The cross was an instrument of death, and Jesus encourages us to take up our cross in order to put to death our old sin nature upon it. God wants us to forget about this world and all its temporary pleasures and be obedient to His Word. Jesus is the living Word (John 1:1), and the Bible is God’s written Word. Therefore, conforming to the Word of God is conforming to Christ.

It is important to realize that becoming more like Christ starts by receiving Him as Savior from our sins. Then we grow in our knowledge of God by reading the Bible daily, studying it, and being obedient to what it says. This process causes us to grow and occurs over an entire lifetime in Christ. Only when we have entered Heaven for eternity with God does this process reach its culmination.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW TO RESTORE YOUR SOUL:

The only biblical passage that contains this phrase is Psalm 23:3: “He restores my soul.” This is in the context of the Shepherd who leads His sheep to “green pastures,” “quiet waters” and “paths of righteousness.” As Christians, we are the sheep of God’s pasture (Psalm 100:3), and only He can restore our souls. To restore means “to repair, renovate, or return to a former condition.” The soul is the deepest part of us, our spirit and innermost being. Since God is the one who made us, only He can restore us, because only He knows what we truly need to restore our souls.

God has given us the answers about restoring our souls in the Bible—the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and it has the answers and wisdom to deal with everything we will ever face. It can make us wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:15), serve to encourage us when we are faint-hearted (2 Corinthians 1:3), and be our guidebook to a life of peace and satisfaction (Psalm 119:97-105). While there are all kinds of books written by men offering worldly wisdom, only God’s Word is truly capable of restoring the soul and offering hope in times of distress.

Of course, restoring the soul is only possible for those whose souls have been redeemed through faith in Christ. Jesus promised rest to all those that would come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30), so it is important that we are sure of our salvation and our relationship with God. Only those who are truly born again in Christ can experience the peace and joy that God has promised in His Word.

Thankfully, God has provided for us when we face discouragement, trials and temptations. He has provided three primary sources of encouragement and strength. First, He has given us His Word to guide us, encourage us and nourish us spiritually. We need to spend time reading it, hearing it preached (Romans 10:17) and most of all obeying it (Psalm 119:2Proverbs 3:1-2James 1:25). Second, God has also given us the privilege and power of prayer (Matthew 7:7-11Mark 11:24-25John 15:7Hebrews 4:161 John 5:14). We need to take our problems, our discouragement and our tiredness to God in prayer, knowing that He loves us and cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7). Third, He has given us other Christians to encourage us and support us (Ecclesiastes 4:9-19Ephesians 4:29Hebrews 3:13). It is important to be a part of a healthy, well-balanced church and to regularly worship and fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:23-25). Christians who have gone through similar struggles can be a great source of encouragement and help as we go through dark times (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Discouragement in times of trouble and tribulation is not unusual. Throughout the Bible we see examples of godly men and women who have faced similar situations. These examples can serve as encouragement to us today, because the same God who was faithful to them then will be faithful to us today. It’s helpful to begin by reading the Psalms because King David wrote many of these during the dark times in his life, and they can serve to encourage us when we are depressed, tired and discouraged. Because David had experienced the joy of a soul restored by God, he could pen the beautiful words of the 23rd Psalm: “He restores my soul.”

Prophet Nathan Emol

FORGIVING THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST ME:

Everyone has been wronged, offended, and sinned against at some point. How are Christians to respond when such offenses occur against them? According to the Bible, we are to forgive others. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 proclaims, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both Scriptures is that we are to forgive fellow believers as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven! Our forgiveness of others should reflect God’s forgiveness of us.

In order to forgive those who sin against us, we must first of all understand God’s forgiveness. God does not just forgive everyone automatically with no preconditions—if He did, there would be no lake of fire in Revelation 20:14–15. Forgiveness, properly understood, involves repentance on the sinner’s part and love and grace on God’s part. The love and grace are there, but the repentance is often lacking. So, the Bible’s command for us to forgive one another does not mean we ignore sin. It means we gladly, gracefully, lovingly extend forgiveness to those who repent. We are always willing to forgive when given the opportunity. Not just seven times, but “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22, KJV). Refusing to forgive a person who requests it demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a true Christian.

To forgive those who sin against us requires patience and forbearance. The church has the command to “be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We should be able to overlook personal slights and minor offenses. Jesus said, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). Not every “slap in the face” needs a response.

To forgive those who sin against us requires the transformational power of God in our lives. There is something deep within fallen human nature that thirsts for revenge and urges retaliation in kind. We naturally want to inflict the same type of injury on the one who injured us—an eye for an eye seems only fair. In Christ, however, we have been given the power to love our enemies, do good to the haters, bless the cursers, and pray for the abusers (see Luke 6:27–28). Jesus gives us a heart that is willing to forgive and will work to that end.

Forgiving those who sin against us is made easier when we consider the extent to which God forgives our transgressions. We who have been lavished with grace have no right to withhold grace from others. We have sinned against God infinitely more than any person can sin against us. Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:23–35 is a powerful illustration of this truth.

God promises that, when we come to Him asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it (1 John 1:9). The grace we extend to those who seek our forgiveness should be just as readily available (Luke 17:3–4).

Prophet Nathan Emol